07 Jul 2022

Me & You with Jennifer Griffiths: Back to work?

Me & You with Jennifer Griffiths: Back to work?

I was chatting with a mum this week, her baby is nearly seven months old and she’s going back to work in September.

This made me realise that, for all those mums who read my pregnancy or baby articles a while back - this could be you! But I also know that for some of you, you may wait till your little one is one, two or three years old, or maybe even at school.

Of course, the choice is yours – well, hopefully, the choice is yours (but more about that another day).

So, anyway, I was explaining to this mum that if she was thinking of a nursery/childcare place she really needed to be looking, choosing and booking that place now as places do feel up fast.

The mum then started asking me lots of questions, as I think you would, so I thought, I’ll share this article with her and with you, too.

I did write it a few years back, so, sorry if your children are grown and happily settled but I do think it’ll help those who need a few tips, suggestions or thoughts about what to look for, ask and think about.

So, to start, whether you are returning to work, starting a new job or maybe even going to do a course, when you’ve got a child (or children) it’s always very difficult to decide who is going I’ve said to look after her or him (or even them) when you start. Oh, and although child in my writing, this all applies to babies and toddlers, too.

So over the next few weeks,  I’m going to try and help you think what’s best for your child and you. I’m not going to give you the answer simply because every child is different, every family has different needs and different childcare choices offer slightly different things.

So, although I’m going to outline a few things for you to think about - remember, YOU make the choice - because this is your precious child and, ultimately, you have to feel confident that wherever you choose to send your child they will be safe, happy and will enjoy many wonderful experiences.

To start,  a private day care nursery  is usually open from approximately 7.00/8.00am to 6.00pm and you can choose to do full-time, part-time, mornings, afternoons or a mixture of the three - it’s up to you.

However, they do often ask you to do a minimum of two sessions per week just for continuity and the sense of ‘being settled’ for your child. It can often seem the more expensive option, particularly if you have more than one child but do make sure you ask, or find out about, funded places for two and three year-olds.

Private nurseries usually have, on average, three classes - babies, toddlers and the pre-school class. Regardless of the class your child will attend, do ask what their settling in procedure is? Can you do pre-visits? Can you stay for the visit?

What happens if your child doesn’t settle, can you call and speak to the nursery staff to check?’.

After all, you don’t want to spend the day worrying while your child is playing happily with the paint.

You may also like to ask about sleep, dummies and can you come and pick your child up early (when you have an early finish at work).

If you stay at the nursery for a couple of years your child will be able to move up through the different classes so be sure to ask when do they move classes? What do you do to settle them into their new class? Ask yourself Is the nursery flexible enough to consider each child’s social and development needs - do they move up as a group or when the child is ready? What do you think will be best for your child?

Also have a look about and ask too, how will you keep me informed about my child’s day? Do they have a daily diary you can take home, or access online, which says what your child had to eat, when they slept and, of course, a brief outline of the lovely activities they took part in.! Can you see a parents' noticeboard with information on such as; menu for the week, any trips planned, what rhyme are they learning this week etc.

Can you see the planning board in the classroom - this will outline the different learning opportunities your child will be able to benefit from that week. Is there a variety of activities (including painting for babies), rhyme time, garden play, construction play etc? And, for the pre-school children, are there also activities linking to more formal learning’ such as numbers, the world around us, and communication and Literacy etc.

Good settings will offer a variety of teacher or nursery nurse-led activities and activities prompted by the child’s interests - ask!

Remember to ask about staffing,  ‘are they qualified, what level of qualifications do they have, is there a teacher?

Consider, too, is there an age mix of staff - or are they all young and recently qualified? This could mean lots of energetic staff with lots of enthusiasm but it does also mean less experience - a balance of older and younger staff is always best and if there are male staff that’s even better - I’ve worked with a few gentlemen who are wonderful with the children, so, although you may question this initially, do keep an open mind - gentlemen in childcare do bring something special with them that us ladies simply don’t have!

Safety - your child’s safety is paramount,  so, do ask, and check yourself, about entry to the nursery classrooms, do they use a password system, is there a code to get in the doors - do the staff give you this code (no). Is the door locked? Can you get round the back to the garden or is that locked, too? Can you see the outside play area - we always see the classroom but what about the garden - does the slide look safe, can babies crawl up the slide? What about medicine is this kept in the child’s bag or in a locked cupboard (yes please? Do the staff use their nappy cream (no), or is your cream kept in a separate your child’s basket?

For me, when my child was young,  I chose a day care nursery that ‘felt right’ (you’ll know this when you find the right one for you). But I did visit a few and also did a little research on other nurseries - what did other people think, what had they heard? What did their Ofsted Report say? - you will find this online and good nurseries won’t mind you asking.

I also went along with a list of questions - one nursery (that my son didn’t go to) didn’t like this and another said I must always phone if I was coming early (he didn’t go there either) - this worried me - why did they need advance notice? - What where they doing that I shouldn’t see?

So, have a think, look online, book a few visits (or just turn up) to different day care nurseries, even visit the same one a couple of times. See what what each is like, and how you and your child feel, when you get there - do you feel happy, confident, feel you can trust the staff to care for and do their best for your child and you. It’s no good having regrets, walking away with doubts, not asking questions for fear of upsetting anyone - remember it’s your child and the time they spend in the nursery will impact on their growing sense of self, confidence and happiness.

If none seems right, not quite what you wanted then watch out for my article next week all about the care and education a childminder or private nanny may offer and, of course, I’ll be writing a little about asking grandparents (who have so much to offer) to help, too.

A lot to think about I know, but as I say, trust yourself, trust your child to show you they are happy too, good luck.

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